Hail Storm Keeps Mt. Washington’s ‘Crashbuster’ Van Totally Busy

July 25, 2006

“It was like Armageddon,” independent agent Pam Sakowski says of the hailstorm that hammered Exeter, New Hampshire, on July 11.

Sakowski, who owns the Ray F. MacDonald Agency in Durham, was visiting her friends at Foy Insurance Group in Exeter, when the sky turned black, the wind howled and baseball-sized hailstones crashed down loudly on everything—including her new Honda Accord parked outside. “It looked like the Red Sox were on the roof pitching down ice baseballs,” she says.

Sakowski represents Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation andalso insures her own car with it. At 7 the next morning the Mt. Washington Crashbusters van, a claims office on wheels, was pulling up to her door. Appraiser Doug Andrew quickly declared the car a total loss.

“Her car was dented from hood to trunk, the windows were shattered, and the hailstones had even punched big holes through the shelf under the rear windshield. I’ve never seen anything like it—and there were many others just as bad,” says Rich Middleton, general manager of the Concord-based carrier, who came along.

“Mt. Washington was unbelievable,” says Sakowski, who as a result of the early-morning appointment didn’t lose any time at work, where her own customers would soon be calling in hail losses.

For the next four days, including Saturday, Andrew drove his van from car to car, giving checks on the spot to people whose vehicles could be repaired and expediting the payment process for total losses. The hailstorm struck Tuesday afternoon, and every car was appraised by Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Middleton met with independent agents and policyholders in the Seacoast area and accommodated their individual needs.
Most of the more than 70 hail-damaged cars Mount Washington insures in Exeter and neighboring Stratham were totaled. Many had both exterior and interior damage because the hail smashed windows, and the upholstery, if not torn by hail, was typically at least soaked.
“We pulled out all the stops to get the job done,” Middleton said. “This is what we call True Service in action.”

Getting car rental cars quickly proved another challenge. Since most rental car companies’ fleets in the Exeter area were destroyed as well, Mt. Washington worked with them to relocate cars from other areas.

Middleton says being New Hampshire-based helped immensely. “Because we’re local, we not only could we put the resources on ground fast and pay claims, but we also met with consumers and agents in person and addressed their concerns on the spot,” he says. “They told me they really appreciated the fast action and personal attention.”

The giant hailstones pummeled a relatively small part of Exeter and neighboring Stratham, but wind damage was more widespread. Foy Insurance, which also represents Mt. Washington, had its office damaged and its several of its employees’ cars were destroyed. There were reports of a funnel cloud and possible tornado near Exeter.

When the hail stopped, Sakowski got into her car and slowly drove three miles to her home in Stratham. Her front windshield was a spider’s web of cracks so she had to poke her head out the side window to see. “I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I was worried about a tornado coming and my two teenagers at home.” Other drivers politely gave her room, and she made it home safely.

Headquartered in Concord, N.H.,, Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation (www.mwac.com) is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies.

Source: Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation

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